Updated: Jul 13, 2020
In recognition of the worldwide protests of George Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis Police Department, we at InsightCyber have decided to respond together. This week we offer two executive blog posts, the first by Curtis Blount and the second by Francis Cianfrocca. As a team, our organization is dedicated to equality and inclusion for everyone. We encourage you to join the global dialogue as well.
It’s Always Been Tough to Be Black in America. Now It’s Up to Young People to Change That.
By Curtis Blount, CSO, InsightCyber
As a Black American born during the Civil Rights Movement and raised during the Frank Rizzo years in Philadelphia during the 70s, I’m not immune to police abuse. When I was in grade school, I went to Holy Cross Catholic School. The school was located on the border between the Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy sections of Philadelphia. The school also wasn’t too far from Mayor Rizzo’s house in Chestnut Hill. This was 1974. I was 10 years old.
During that time, Philly had the “Boot Cops” due to their high leather boots, like what the Nazi Gestapo would wear during WWII. It became a weekly occurrence when I would wait for the trolley on Germantown Avenue to head home. The Boot Cops would pull up and throw me to the ground. They would hold me down with their boots on my back and their K9 German Shepherds nipping at me. My parents complained, but of course, being black in a white neighborhood and all-white school, the “police” wanted to make sure “the little n—– knew his place” (their words).
On one of their weekly visits, one of the German Shepherds got a little too close and bit into my calf. The police left me there bleeding. Long story short, one of the trolley operators saw me on the ground and took me to the hospital in Chestnut Hill. My parents later transferred me to another grade school. And of course, the police denied everything.
Growing up black in Philly in the 60s and 70s was brutal. When Black Americans would get paid, the police would raid black neighborhoods supposedly looking for drugs and would confiscate the pay, claiming it was drug money.
I’d get beat up by drunk cops when I was in high school coming out of band camp because we (the black kids in the band) were in a white neighborhood. How about being arrested and spending the weekend in lockup for “breaking into my own condo.” For some reason, the Philadelphia police could not believe that a 24-year-old could afford a condo in downtown Philly. Despite having keys and a driver’s license with the same address. They actually burned my NASA ID because they claimed it was fake! I was working as an engineer at Cape Canaveral with GE Aerospace on the shuttle program.
These are just some of my stories. Believe me when I say this, I have plenty to tell over a few shots of bourbon. Police brutality against People of Color is real. I know that to some people, this could not possibly happen. Police are there to serve and protect. Clearly, I must have done something wrong. However, my story is just one of thousands that Black Americans and People of Color have gone through for DECADES. To be clear, just because our reality is not your reality, does not mean that reality does not exist.
Is all law enforcement bad? No, of course not. If that was the case, then I would believe my oldest son, now with the Baltimore County Police Department, is a bad officer. No, I raised him better than that. I truly believe there are more good law enforcement officers than there are bad. However, those bad officers have personal prejudices and biases they bring into their work. Further, those good officers are afraid to speak up for fear of backlash from their leadership. Fundamental change and reform must happen.
Our country is broken. Our government is completely polarized and does not have the best interest of its citizens at heart. There are divisions based on race, economic status, ideology, etc. We claim to be the best country in the world. But if you peel back the skin, the issues that have plagued this country have been there for decades. This is nothing new. Too many people have chosen to either ignore the issues or have blind eyes. With social media and live streaming, no one can deny there is a problem anymore.
This protest is about change. Black Americans are angry and frustrated over their treatment by law enforcement and the lack of accountability by the Justice Department. We want EQUALITY and to be treated fairly. This isn’t about blame or white guilt. We want understanding. Like I mentioned earlier, it is not your reality, but it is ours.
At the end of the day, all Americans have to do some soul searching. Is this the kind of country we really want? We claim to be a Christian nation, but our actions are not Christian-like even to each other. Where is the empathy? Where is the compassion? And more importantly, can we continue like this? Clearly, the Millennial/Gen Z generations are saying “enough of the bullshit.”
As a member of the Baby Boomer/Gen X generation, we have failed our children. We had the chance to make fundamental change to improve our country. We didn’t. This generation (Millennial / Gen Z) is starting to stand up and demand the change we didn’t do. While this generation is protesting the murder of George Floyd, they are also demanding change across the board. Maybe it’s time for us Baby Boomer/Gen Xers to step aside, because we really made a mess of things.
This is a very unique moment in history. Millennials and Gen Z around the world are starting to step up. If you look at who is protesting, they are Black, White, Hispanic, Latino and everything else in between.
To my black brothers and sisters: keep the pressure up. We need fundamental change in law enforcement, equality, and respect. We need to improve the wealth gap. At the same time, we are not immune to that soul searching. We know, there are a lot of issues within our own community that must be addressed. This might be harsh, but we need to get rid of the slave mentality, stop killing each other and learn to lift each other to achieve. We need to be smarter and more strategic.
To the Millennial/Gen Z generations: make your voice and your vote be heard. This is your time to demand change and shape the future of the country.
And lastly, to my white brothers and sisters: You might not be able to feel our pain, but you can listen. We understand that this is not your reality. However, if one American is in pain, we are all in pain. You can’t ignore this anymore.
The brutality that Black Americans have faced is now out there for all to see. Just look at the difference in law enforcement’s response to peaceful protest. A few weeks ago, when White Americans were protesting re-opening the country, law enforcement response was minimal. But Black Americans do peaceful protest and we are met with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Hear our pain and make a stand. Become part of the solution.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
White People: It’s Time to Listen
By Francis Cianfrocca, CEO, InsightCyber
All of us are committed to seeing the good in others, and to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. And we all have a deep-rooted need to have our basic goodness recognized by others.
But white people like myself need to confront the plain fact that now isn’t the time for that.
Not as we face the outpouring of grief for George Floyd, which is really the grief of all people of color, each of whom suffers from racism in ways large and small, every single day. White people: WE are the cause of the grief.
All of this is hard to say, and probably hard to hear. But all our lives we’ve been telling ourselves that “I don’t see color,” and “I judge people by the content of their character,” and even “I’m not responsible for the sins of the past.” These pat words amount to simple self-justification. They absolve us of the need to act, and to change.
That just doesn’t fly anymore.
I realized with a jolt of shame just how bitter it must be for a black person to hear Martin’s words about the content of his children’s character, coming from the mouth of a white person.
But like most white people, I just don’t have the equipment to fully see or acknowledge how my own thoughts and words harm people of color. Especially people I work with every day, deeply respect, and think of as dear friends!
If I say I’m sad that it took me so many years to realize this (I’m not a young man), then the fully-justified retort from a person of color would be “That and $4.75 buys me a coffee.” Or, as we say in my home town of New York City: “Don’t do me no favors!”
The job of white people, at this hinge in history, is to just keep quiet and listen. The fever of the violent protests will burn itself out soon enough. But that will leave us at a moment that we simply must seize.
What happened to George Floyd must never happen again. But, and this is even more important: people of color must be able to live their lives, in their communities and in the communities we white people share with them, without being reminded of their color every single day.
As my colleague and dear friend Curtis Blount says nearby, black people don’t want a handout. They want EQUALITY. That sounds like such a simple ask for a nation forged in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal!
But it’s not so simple. Not as long as white people keep telling ourselves “I’m one of the good ones.”
One thing which has resonated with me in recent days is that white people need to DO SOMETHING to change racism. What’s needed now are imagination and action, not smiles and pleasant words. And this is perhaps the hardest ask of all, because we all have our lives to attend to, with our dreams and desires, our loves and our friendships.
This is a DISRUPTIVE moment for all white people. We need to figure out what we can DO to make the right kind of change happen. As I said, this is a lot harder than it looks, and not only because we all have busy lives. It’s because white people have been so blind to all these problems for so long, that we don’t know what we can and should do, each in our own realms and with our own resources. We don’t even know when our smiles and well-meant words come off as patronizing and racist!
The problems to solve go far beyond police brutality. (And I’m fully prepared to talk about radically changing the way America does police work. In the UK, they police by consent, not by force, and most — not all — UK police are unarmed. Let’s take an honest, sincere look at that. Really. We could make that work.)
But there’s a lot more. At the end of the day, black people on the whole don’t enjoy the same opportunities to succeed economically in life. As a CEO, that’s my realm, so it’s something I can maybe do something about. Everyone reading this who is a CEO or business leader: look in the mirror right now!
But all white people, be they educators, service people, elected officials, church and social-group members, and yes, even law enforcement personnel, will need to look at their own realms and see what they can change.
And as always, leadership is needed: the kind of leadership in which you influence your friends and colleagues gently, with love and respect, to do the right thing.
But we need black people to tell us how to start. Black people: that’s a big ask at this painful time. You’ve been patient with us all your lives. Please be patient a little more.
A better nation, and a better world: we can get there. One thing about Americans that will always be true, is that WE CAN DO THE HARD STUFF BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE ON EARTH. All it takes is deciding to do it.
That needs to be our goal and purpose, the purpose not of a month, a year, or even a presidential election. It’s the purpose of a whole generation.
Let it start here.
People of color: be demanding and don’t hold back, but be wise and temperate. We will hear you and change.
White people: keep quiet and listen.